TEDx Talk Boulder by Ash Beckham

Ash Beckham believes that “we all spend time in closets” and at some point we need to “come out” of them. “All a closet is,” she says, “is a hard conversation.”  A self-professed militant lesbian, Beckham suggests that for one person, a closet might be telling someone that you love her for the first time. Or, telling someone you are pregnant. Or any of the other hard conversations that we have throughout our lives.

Although the topics may vary tremendously, Beckham notes that the experience of being in, and coming out of, a closet is universal. She tells a lovely story about the “easiest hard conversation” that she ever had. As it happens, it was with a four-year-girl in a pink dress who asked Beckham if she was a girl or a boy.  Beckham’s response was terrific. The little girl’s response?  Even better.

Although the walls of Ash’s closet were rainbow, in the dark you can’t really tell what colors the walls are. We all know what it feels like to live in a closet. It may feel safe, or safer than our lives on the other side of the door, but, as Beckham says, “It’s no place for a person to live.”

Touching on our need to compare our problems to those of others, Beckham thinks that we tend to see ours as more difficult and we rank our “hard” against everyone else’s “hard. It’s an interesting form of one-upmanship. “Hard is not relative,” she adds. “Hard is hard.”

Why is coming out of that closet so hard? Admittedly, it’s stressful. We are so concerned about the reaction of others. Will they be angry? Sad? Disappointed?  Will we lose a friend? A parent?

But, Ash warns, our bodies can’t handle the stress of not having those hard conversations. Chronic exposure to adrenaline and cortisol coursing through our veins can disrupt almost every system in our bodies, which can lead to anxiety, depression and heart disease, to name just a few.

Referring to the situation as a “grenade,” Beckham remembers, “I realized many years ago when I was holed up in my pitch black closet that I was holding my gay grenade. If you don’t throw it, it will kill you.”

Beckham’s talk includes sage advice for coming out of our own personal closets and I urge you to watch it.  As she says, “A closet is no place for a person to truly live.”